Painting vases with the camera



During my habitual, lazy and very enjoyable browsing of all the Monday vases that have appeared today, I have been wracked with envy at everyone else’s current abundance of soft, fluffy peonies crammed into vases left, right and centre, when I have none. Nonetheless, positive framing and all that, I do have a glut of red poppies, and they are clashing horribly with everything else so I am quite content to snip them off as soon as they appear and bring them indoors. Come autumn, I’ll move this plant to the back garden where it will be more at home among the vermillions and oranges on the sunnier side of the tenement.


You may be interested to know that the wall behind the flowers is in fact a deep moss green, though it has gone grey against the vase, and I haven’t bothered to adjust the colour back to its proper shade in these photos, as the colours of the flowers came through pretty true and I was loathe to interfere too much. The lights were off and the late afternoon sky outside dim; this is where a good SLR camera and photo processing software really come into their own. I take all my photos in natural light and spend a lot of time balancing aperture, ISO, and shutter speed to achieve  sharply focused edges. It’s easy to crank ISO up to the max, but the noise (spots of grain) becomes unbearable, and then it’s down to Lightroom to reduce that noise, which then reduces detail. This is why many of my indoor photographs end up looking more like they’ve been painted than photographed: it’s that loss of detail and unnatural smoothness, which I turn to my advantage as a personal characteristic when shooting vases, but it’s less ideal if, for example, photographing an insect or a plant in which you wish to capture millions of tiny hairs or other important texture or detail.


Some or all of this may be quite familiar to some of the other garden bloggers I follow, whose blogs are often as much about the photographs as the gardening, but for anyone who was baffled by all that chat, I am presently going to write and publish a few posts on photography and taking one’s best shots of the garden.


In a Vase on Monday is hosted by the fragrant Cathy at Rambling in the Garden. Do go across and have a look at her beautiful yellow roses and honeysuckle, and also follow the links to see what other masterly creations have appeared across other gardening blogs today.


25 thoughts on “Painting vases with the camera

  1. Yes, the camera jargon is largely Double Dutch (well, at least Single!) to me, and much as I often think I would like to take better photos I do too many other things to make it a priority, but it shows in posts of bloggers who do have the knowledge – like yours! The photos are stunning – who needs peonies?! And I have been so enamoured by these poppies recently that I have bought some seed and sown some of my own – now about 2mm tall! Thanks for sharing – and I look forward to picking up some of the simpler tips from you 🙂

      1. Not sure if I would have had space for 16 seedlings bursting with vigour – but thanks anyway! 😉 Hopefully my seedlings will turn out to just as vigorous in due course 😊

  2. Joanna, the poppies are divine and beautifully presented. Read your photography notes with great interest–all did make sense. Very much look forward to your future articles.

  3. Hi Joanna,
    Lovely poppy photos – I do love poppies, especially red ones. Will be very interested to read any photography tips, especially if you include Lightroom. We have just bought this and a VERY thick book about it so hope to start using it soon.

    1. Thanks Annette… as evidenced by your beautiful profile photo! Lightroom is a wonderful thing. When I began using it a few years ago I found the tutorials on YouTube especially helpful, as you can see the effects they are creating as they speak about their methods.

      1. Great – I’m afraid the foxgloves never even came up – it must have been too late to plant them. Mind you I don’t do well with seeds in the garden generally.

  4. Your poppies and your photographs are simply sublime, Joanna. I really mean that! I think most of us who take part in this meme are bewitched by the vases/photographs of everyone else. I know I am, continually. But you are a fascinating/interesting photographer. I really enjoy both your flowers and what you do with your camera! Well done and looking forward to next Monday.

  5. You are not alone in coveting peonies Joanna. I don’t have one to my name and will have to do something to remedy the situation. Your poppies are fabulous. What is the little purple daisy type flower? My camera remains a mystery to me so I’m looking forward to your photography posts.

    1. The trouble with peonies is you plant them and they take a year or two before giving you even one flower. I am waiting patiently for mine, both planted last year, and when that happy ‘bloomsday’ arrives I hope I won’t be too precious about stealing a flower or two for a vase. The purple flower is an osteospermum (variety unknown), which I bought as a tiny thing from the Botanic Gardens plant sale, and which not only turned into a giant and prolific flowerer, but survived all year outdoors without complaint.

      1. Thanks for the id Joanna. Osteospermum crossed my mind but I wasn’t sure. It’s a most attractive colour. I better make a start on the peony shopping 🙂

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